We asked our featured SmartPak Pro Stacie Appleton, PhD, to explain how some of the newest ingredients in equine supplements—turmeric, collagen, ashwagandha, and resveratrol—differ from more traditional ingredients and to discuss the potential benefits they may provide your horse.
These ingredients may be regarded as new and cutting-edge, but turmeric, collagen, ashwagandha, and resveratrol have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years due to their wide range of health benefits. “Modern research,” Appleton said, “has just recently started to document the physiologic impact of these bioactive compounds to support the anecdotal evidence.”
A bioactive is a compound or substance that can influence tissues and cells. natural ingredients are different than essential vitamins and minerals but can play an equally important role in supporting horse health.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) primarily known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is a plant from the ginger family that can aid with joint discomfort and stiffness. Curcumin—the most active compound of turmeric—also supports the respiratory, immune, muscular, cardiovascular, and digestive systems.
“As one of the few bioactives capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, turmeric offers neuroprotective benefits that can boost serotonin and dopamine,” Appleton said. “It can also help mitigate the negative impact of mycotoxins and support gut health. Turmeric’s powerful antioxidative capacity provides benefits to all cells in the body such as muscle cell integrity for peak performance and recovery.”
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Prevalent in the skin and connective tissue, some forms even provide the matrix for bone mineralization. “Collagen’s primary function,” Appleton said, “is to promote growth, development, and maintenance of bone and connective tissues, which in turn provide support for joints, tendons, ligaments, bone, and hooves as well as skin, muscle, and gut tissues.
“Collagen supplementation targets connective tissue resiliency, which allows it to withstand greater stress,” Appleton said. “Additional collagen can be especially beneficial for horses recovering from soft tissue injuries because it provides the building blocks for these slow-growing tissues, which aids in the repair process.”
The bioactives in Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) promote its function as an “adaptogen,” meaning it can help regulate various body systems to reduce the impact of stress and promote balance. Ashwagandha aids in the regulation and balance of the chemical signals in the nervous system and can stimulate or suppress the immune system to normalize physiologic responses to stress and promote balance in the body, Appleton explains.
Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant derived from several sources such as Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) root and is thought to help address excess joint inflammation by protecting cartilage from the damaging effects of free radicals. It’s also noted for its benefits to the cardiovascular system, blood sugar levels, brain cells, and musculoskeletal health.
“Intense exercise creates microscopic tears in muscle fibers. As the body repairs the damage, the tissues become bigger and stronger,” Appleton said. “Resveratrol can aid in the recovery process by supporting a normal response to inflammation and providing anti-oxidative protection to healthy cells surrounding the damaged tissue.
Resveratrol functions as both a primary and secondary antioxidant. As a primary antioxidant, it works to immediately bind free radicals to prevent tissue damage. As a secondary antioxidant, resveratrol plays a role in boosting the body’s production of antioxidants to help protect tissues and organs at the cellular level.
“Ingredients like turmeric, collagen, ashwagandha, and resveratrol provide targeted solutions that may complement traditional ingredients,” Appleton said. “By supplementing with specific bioactives from ingredients selected for synergistic modes of action, we can provide a whole-horse approach to equine health and wellness.”
Keep following along in the SmartPak Ask a Pro series as we cover a wide range of equine health care and supplement topics here!